By Nathan Mark
Lately, I have had an “epiphany” of sorts that I would like to share with you. As I have been reading the words of Jesus, the thought has continued to occur to me, “What if Jesus actually meant these things He is saying?” I wrote about one of those moments in my last blog about loving others, but I had another one of these moments as I was reading the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. I think the Sermon on the Mount is one of the most important statements Jesus ever made as to how we are supposed to live our lives. But I think sometimes we read it like it is poetry, as opposed to hearing it as literal instructions in how we should live. There is so much there, and sometimes we almost seem to think, “Those words sound nice and fluffy and I’m not sure I get it, but I’m just going to keep on reading.”
About every week I take an hour or so and I go to my secret place in the woods at Clark’s Creek Park in Puyallup. It’s just a log up on the mountainside where I spend time sitting, hanging out with Jesus. I ask Him questions. I listen for answers. I write songs. I read the Bible. He always shows up. Every time I go, it’s different, but it’s always good. I was reading in Matthew 6 because I am working on a set of songs based on “The Lord’s Prayer.” So I began to read the Lord’s Prayer, but then continued to the end of the chapter.
Beginning in verse 19, Jesus begins to address the topic of money and possessions. Now, as people who live in the wealthiest nation to ever exist on the face of planet earth, if anyone ever needed to hear what the Son of God has to say about money and possessions, it’s probably us. If I am honest with you, money is probably the thing that my wife and I have had the most conflict over in our marriage. And on this particular morning as I read this passage I felt frustrated. It seemed like lately, money talk had dominated our recent conversations. Jesus talks about the idea of not storing up treasures here on earth and that whatever our treasure is, that this is where our heart will be. Our hearts are tied to what we most value, and because of this inseparable connection between what we treasure and our heart, Jesus says: “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money” (Matthew 6:24). I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Is this me? Is money more important to me and my wife than You, Jesus?”
Now one of the chief reasons I think that we become enslaved to money is that we worry about life and whether there will be enough to take care of our needs. In fear, we want to control our situation. This is why Jesus follows up His words about money enslaving us by talking about worry, and He literally says, “THAT IS WHY I TELL YOU, not to worry about everyday life- whether you have enough food and drink or enough clothes to wear.” “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly father feeds them. And aren’t you more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (vv. 25-27)
We have all heard this verse about the birds. I just don’t know if we really believe it. I tend to think, “Well, birds don’t eat as much as the family of six in my house!” 🙂 But Jesus draws this message to a close with this statement: “Your heavenly Father ALREADY knows all your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Wait a minute: What if Jesus actually meant this? He already knows everything we need and we don’t need to worry?! Our job is to seek our Father first, “above all else,” and He has promised that He will give us what we need.
So sitting there on that log I said, “Jesus, will You prove it? Will You prove this to me?” Now I am not recommending we put God to the test, but honestly, this is where I was at that day. So then I continued to sit on the log and enjoy my time there.
After a few minutes, a little bird came and landed a few feet in front of me, and sat there, looking at me. It then hopped up on the log next to me, picked at something, then flew off. I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s cool. That bird got really close.” I continued to sit and read.
Now in the park there are lots of people around, and so you hear interesting sounds from time to time. I started to hear a sound up in the woods behind me, like somebody striking rocks together. I continued to read, but after a few minutes of listening to this, I stopped and said to myself, “What the heck are they doing up there?!”
Curiosity finally got the better of me and I started to walk up the trail toward the sound. As I approached the sound I realized it was actually up above me, and I looked up to see a beautiful woodpecker with bright red feathers on his head! He was clinging to the side of an old tree and picking at it.
Every time I see wildlife when I am at my spot in the woods I always feel like Jesus put it there for me to enjoy, so I said, “Thanks for this, Jesus! This is really cool!” I stood there and enjoyed it for a few minutes. As I looked up into the tree, the thought occurred to me, “Man, it is amazing that the woodpecker knows where to find bugs in the trees. How do they know that …” and I stopped short. A light went on in my head: “Look at the birds of the air … they do not store food in barns …” I prayed, “Jesus, are you proving it to me right now?” And He said, “Yep.” So I replied, with a smile, “Well, it’s not exactly what I had in mind, but it’s pretty cool.”
How do you view your money? Do you find yourself constantly worrying about whether or not you will have enough? God accepts you in the middle of your worry, but He loves you too much to let you stay there. Even in my worry and distrust, He is so gentle and so full of grace, while still teaching me as I listen to Him.
As I walked down the mountainside to my car, I came across another bird that stood in the middle of the trail, then flew off. Then another. And another. As I approached my car, I couldn’t help but smile and feel completely loved and taken care of by my Father.